Monday, May 23, 2011

could well be in

One of the brilliant things about having a brother in computer science is knowing someone who can hook you up with little known sites and services, as well as a Google Voice number, before they come out of beta. (Another nice thing is 24/7 tech support - love you!) And now, dear friends, I'm passing some of my favorites on to you.

First up is Amazon's Mechanical Turk (delightfully subtitled 'Artificial Artificial Intelligence').


We all know that we can find just about anything on the internets, and we know that you can buy just about anything on Amazon, but sometimes the best results come from a little human intervention. Mechanical Turk is that human intervention. It was created to do what major corporations can't, by acting as a marketplace where people can either offer their skills or hire people to do the kind of personalized work that computers just aren't very good at doing. For example, you could hire someone to make a list of the top 20 European travel websites, or to create a design logo for your fledgling company, you could even commission someone to draw a caricature of you. Just submit your problem and what you're willing to pay for a solution then wait for them to start coming in. You only pay for the submissions that you approve; so if you ask for a drawing of a yeti and get twenty submissions you only have to shell out for the ones you want to keep. It's important to note, though, that Mechanical Turk works best with products that can be sent via the internet, so you might want to hold off on posting an ad for a bespoke tux.


Speaking of Amazon, I'd like to show you a better way to keep track of your Wish List. My Price Track will keep a constant watch over a specific item, (public) Wish List, registry, or the like by listing an item's current price on Amazon as well as its historical lowest price (while new).


You can even add it to your RSS feed, set price points, priority, and a couple of other handy features that will help keep buyer's remorse at bay.


Next up is YouTube Disco.


Designed to be something like Pandora for music videos Disco lets you put in either an artist or song title and will immediately send you to one of the band's music videos as well as providing you with a related playlist at the bottom of the screen. The playlist generally includes more songs by the artist you've searched for as well as songs with a similar sound. You can shuffle the list, put it on autoplay, even choose one of the other videos if they've been foolish enough to include a song you hate. It's not as sophisticated as Pandora, and they haven't gotten around to including up-and-comers in their algorithms yet, but what it does give you is a much more diverse playlist than the corporate-sponsored ones which usually appear in the 'suggestions' column.


Last on today's tour of the beta internet is Google City Tours.


Depending on the type of traveller you are, you can think of this site as either a starting point or a planning destination. Just put in a city (or in some cases a specific part of a city) and Google will give you a list of sites to see and provide a very detailed walking tour map that's been adjusted for the number of days you're staying (for now, at least, that number of days can only be between 1 and 5). Since you provide Google with the starting date of your trip the information you get is going to be date-specific, which means you won't be building an entire day around a visit to a museum that's closed; but you can always add and remove sites from the suggested itinerary if you're not completely satisfied with what they've recommended.

Congratulations, kids, you're now internet insiders (well, technically, insider-adjacent-adjacent), use your new knowledge wisely.

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